Monday, January 17, 2011

Breaking Down Walls of Judgment

Over the past several weeks, I've had the productive pleasure of participating in Keith Ferrazzi's Relationship Master's Academy.  If Keith's name sounds familiar to you here, you may remember that I made a complete arse out of myself the first time I met him.  Water under the bridge now of course... though I may experience a Pavlovian cringe the next time I see a plate of bananas foster. 

In any case, I've been talking a whole lot about relationships lately.  What makes them strong?  What makes them difficult?  How do we build more and better relationships?  What are the secrets to proper care and feeding of a good network?  And so on.

It's convenient timing for such exploration as I am also working on the book proposal for My Life Does Not Make Your Butt Look Big (working title).  

One consistent observation is that critical judgment of others is not only extremely common, but can make a big difference in our ability to form and nurture relationships.

I'm not just talking about the, "Oh. Em. Gee.  Did you see what she was, like, wearing?!" kind of judgment.

We project our opinions onto others in so many ways, both personally and professionally.  Often, these experiences do not have happy endings.

For example, my very first job was as a commissioned sales associate at a clothing store in Suburbia, USA.   I was only 16 years old and didn't even have my driver's license yet.  (Picture me riding four miles each way on an old five-speed with my Farrah Fawcett hair and Payless platforms.)

To make a long story short, I learned a valuable lesson when I ignored an unkempt customer who ended up spending $350 with another clerk who was more attentive and less judgmental.

The story was more poignant before they made Pretty Woman.  But you get the idea.

In the 25 years since my mall days, I've learned a few additional lessons with similar themes about the dynamics of relationships and judgment:

1. Solutions can come from the most unexpected places.  No matter how high we think our position, it pays to listen to everyone and anyone willing to come forth with their ideas about how to make things better. 

2. When times get tough, our own fear of failure can back us into the corner and make us defensive or angry.  (Personally, I tend to express this as impatience.)   While the tendency is to put up those protective walls, this is the time when we need to be more open to and accepting of others' insight, help and support.   Put the claws away. 

3. Everyone has "customer service" in their job description, whether those customers are external clients or co-workers or family and friends.  As tempting as it may be to focus on how annoying, stupid, random or arrogant (etc) some of those people may seem, we hold our own happiness and success hostage by indulging in judgment.  Before reacting, I find it helpful to take a breath and ask myself, "What am I trying to accomplish with this interaction and what can I do to be most helpful towards that outcome?"

4. When we peel the paint off those walls of judgment, we will typically find a layer of insecurity and/or fear underneath.  When I was a child, my mom told me that the kids who made fun of me only did it to feel better about themselves.  I was a weird kid and I probably would have made fun of me too.  But here's the truth:  judging others is more a reflection of our own defects and usually makes us feel worse, not better.   In accepting, celebrating and investing positive energy in others, we generate more confidence in ourselves.

5. One of the many things I learned in the halls of AA with my first husband was, "Take your own inventory."   (See also: When you point a finger at someone else, there are three pointing back at you.)  Continuing with the theme that one side of the wall of judgment is reflective, often those qualities which bother us most in others, are those which we possess ourselves.   Yet, while it's helpful to pay attention to those negative triggers, I personally feel that self-analysis is only truly helpful when it includes the good stuff too.   In accepting, celebrating and investing positive energy in ourselves, we generate more confidence in others. 

Let's all look for opportunities to break down those walls and make more room to grow as individuals as well as in our relationships with those around us.

Increased confidence brings increased capacity.


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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Law of Attraction

Not too long ago, I asked my amazing young daughter Miss M. what she thought was the key to being truly happy.

She shrugged and replied simply, "You just gotta focus on the good stuff and not the bad stuff."

Imagine that! Top selling books, critically acclaimed experts, numerous podcasts and more to describe the Law of Attraction, easily summarized in the words of a nine year old girl.

Most people have at least heard of "The Secret" by Rhonda Byrne. In earlier posts I mentioned Shakti Gawain who wrote about the same principles two decades ago with "Creative Visualization" (my personal favorite) and other books since then.

Although Miss M. actually said it more succinctly, this is the simple explanation I usually use:

Energy attracts like energy. Your thoughts, feelings and actions are energy. Therefore, you attract stuff into your life which is consistent with what you think, feel and do.

One saying which describes the concept quite well is, "If you meet more than two jerks in one day, chances are pretty good that you're one of them."

Oh come on now - you must know someone who just constantly complains about how rude everyone is to them, how things always seem to go wrong, how somehow life always manages to screw them in one way or another. They've spent so much energy bitching... that yeah, life is being a bitch right back.

Good luck not snickering the next time you talk to this person and start focusing on everything they say. (OMG - they are SO doing what Charlene said in her blog! It's true!!)

Yet, so as not to sound too judgmental... the reality is we ALL have our moments.  I certainly do. It may be a particular commute or a temporary rut or really bad PMS. It helps me to be more aware by exploring these moments from mirror view. If I suddenly start to notice a string of bad luck or multiple irritations or whatever, I stop and think. "What have I been doing (or feeling/thinking) to create the negative energy which could possibly be attracting this crap?"

Today for example, I'll admit I'm feeling quite under the weather. I know that "germs happen" and am on board with the miracles of modern medicine. However, suddenly I'm aware of how many times in the past week I've said things like, "I'm SO tired." "Ugh, my head hurts." "I really don't want to be in the office right now."

So now I am more tired, my head hurts a LOT and I'm not in the office (because I'm sick.)

Before I even started to have any "symptoms" I was feeling worried and told several people, "Both my kids have been so sick... I hope I don't get sick. I really can't be sick right now."

The critics would say, "Well no duh - you got the sick germs from your kids. That's why you got sick." But trust me, I travel on airplanes and sleep in hotels where there are lots more icky, germy people spreading their slimy mucus and stuff all over items I end up touching. The only difference is I may not know it when I touch the "ick" of strangers. At least with my kids, I know to wash my hands after they sneeze on me or wipe their nose on my sleeve.

Then again -- I bet people who say, "I always get sick when I travel" actually do get sick when they travel.

The point is, energy only knows the object of what you put out there. So when I say, "I don't want to get sick," the law of attraction provides back the energy of sick. Sick. Sick. Sick.

Think of the drive-up window at your local pitstop as an example. My husband loves Wendy's cheeseburgers. He hates onions. (He also hates pepper and garlic; you'd never know he was Italian.) Literally every time he goes to the Wendy's drive-up, he says, "I'd like a cheeseburger with NO onions." 9 out of 10 times he gets a cheeseburger WITH onions. Often EXTRA onions.

In my husband's case the law of attraction may actually be in action since he is now pretty convinced that he will always get onions. It's a fast food conspiracy.

But really, I'm just using the drive-up window as a metaphor.

Another example is a dear friend who used to order her coffee this way: "I'd like a medium hazelnut hot coffee with milk - NO sugar."

You can see where this going right? Requested that way, she consistently received *...wait for it, wait for it...* yes, SUGAR in her coffee. And loads of it since the order taker heard the emphasis on "sugar" but not the word "no."

Now she orders it this way, "I'd like a medium hazelnut hot coffee, just milk." TAHDAH!

So there you go. That's my (actually Miss M's) sage advice for the day. Be aware of your thoughts, feelings and actions -- including your words. Put your energy into what you WANT.

Focus on the good stuff.

Happy New Year!
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